I nearly have an out-of-body experience as I watch Jake lean in to kiss me.
It's the moment I've been dreaming of, and my adrenaline is pumping so hard I'm afraid I'll pass out. It feels like everything has shifted into slow motion as a voice in my head screams, This is it, Ricki! Your first kiss from a nonrelative!
Jake is so close I can sense the warmth of his breath on my lips as I draw in the fresh afternoon air. I close my eyes and...execute a full-body spasm to duck out of the way.
I basically react as if the two of us are in a slasher flick and Jake is coming at me with a butcher knife instead of those perfect lips of his.
My evasive action is not subtle.
The fact that Jake's romantic timing is completely wrong really shouldn't matter. After all, I've been hoping for a kiss from him for the past three months as we've worked side by side, trying to save the Starlight Drive-in movie theater from closing forever.
And it makes perfect sense that Jake would be caught up in our victory—getting ready to light up the enormous outdoor movie screen we're currently painting. A kiss right now would make our impending triumph even sweeter.
But when I envisioned our first kiss, never once did I picture myself covered in spatters of bright white paint and buried under eight layers of perspiration.
All afternoon Jake and I have been painting over the stained and rusted places on the Starlight's giant outdoor movie screen in preparation for Friday's grand reopening. We've been goofing off and "accidentally" getting paint on each other while working our way down the scaffolding to where we're now standing on the ground, and my stomach muscles ache from laughing so much.
Despite my two-dollar sunglasses, I'm fairly blind from the sun's constant glare off the giant wall of white, and on top of everything else, my lips are so dry, I'm afraid a soft, tender kiss from Jake could draw blood. Not to mention I'm hours beyond the power of my last breath mint.
It's not like I'm the type of girl who needs things to be overly romantic; I'd just prefer my first kiss to be minty fresh.
And okay, since I'm listing things, I'd really love for it to happen Friday night underneath the stars at the drive-in's grand reopening. The magical movie night Jake and I have been working toward for months. I know that makes it sound like I am overly romantic, but trust me—my favorite romance is the 1935 horror classic, The Bride of Frankenstein.
Jake and I actually met at a Classic Horror Movie Tuesday right here at the Starlight last spring. The theater could never afford to switch to digital projectors, so it hasn't been able to screen new movies for a few years now. Wes, the owner, who is so bonded to the Starlight he probably sprang to life from the drive-in's dust, was doing his best to stay afloat showing only older films.
Wes was working really hard, making up theme nights for every day of the week based on classic films. He had things like Monday Movie Musicals featuring Grease and The Sound of Music, as well as Eighties Movie Saturdays with a John Hughes tribute each weekend.
Jake and I share an obsession with classic horror flicks, but not everyone appreciates the iconic sensation of sitting in a folding chair beside your car, watching a double feature of The Birds and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Ticket sales at the drive-in were already dangerously low before the big flood forced Wes to close last fall.
The fancy, high-tech digital projectors for showing newly released movies are astronomically expensive. I'm talking, like, eighty-thousand-dollars expensive. So, six months ago, when waist-high floodwaters ruined the outdated equipment that had allowed the theater to keep barely scraping by, Wes was sure he'd need to close the Starlight's front gate forever.
The passion Jake and I have for the drive-in inspired me to write a stirring letter to our local paper about how important the Starlight is to our community. The paper printed my email address along with the piece, and Jake and I were thrilled over how many volunteers wrote to ask how they could help. That one letter kindled a fund-raising drive that is actually on the verge of saving the Starlight.